Milk thistle seed is well known in today’s world for it’s cleansing benefits on the liver. However, the use of milk thistle seeds as an herbal treatment for liver disorders actually dates way back to 4th century B.C.
Milk thistle was known as a popular remedy in European herbal alchemy and tradition, mentioned in books and documented in herbals throughout the ages. It was often referred to as a "remedy of the bile duct“ and used in treatment for numerous problems associated with the liver.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum), also called holy thistle and lady's thistle, is a common weed in California, but grows throughout the world. The plant has purple and red flowers and can be up to 10 feet tall.
Other parts of this wild plant are also edible. The leaves can be steamed (after removing the thorns) as a wild edible green, but for purposes of aiding liver issues, the seeds are where the potent superfood medicine is concentrated.
The name "milk" thistle comes from the milk that exudes when you crush the thistle leaves. In addition, the leaves also have a milky white pattern, like they have been splashed with milk, which makes them easy to identify.
Milk thistle seeds are also known to increase and enrich milk production in breastfeeding women.
Thistles are a remarkable group of herbs in my opinion. They are thorny, resilient, robust and very tenacious in the environments they grow in. Commonly found in areas that need regenerating, they are very prolific at spreading their seeds and taking over the landscape.
Milk thistle seed is one of the great cleansing herbs and is specific for its stimulating and rejuvenating effects on the liver organ.
It helps to clear liver stagnation yet strengthens liver weakness, providing for conditions of excess and conditions of deficiency at the same time. This is the main reason we have it listed as a top superfood.
It is one of the leading researched herbs for its benefits at repairing damage to this organ. The National Institute of Health and the United States National Library have documented more than 400 studies on the seed specifically.
The seeds contain the active compound silymarin.
Silymarin is a bioflavonoid complex and the active compound present in the seeds which is known to renew damage to the liver.
The three main silymarum consituents are:
Of the three, research indicates, silybin is the most beneficial flavonoid ingredient, usually making up about 50-70% of the silymarin molecule.
Silymarin repairs the liver by stimulating protein synthesis and changing the outside layer of liver cells, which inhibits toxins from getting in, blocking them and removing them from the body.
In double blind studies experts concluded that the silymarin in milk thistle is extremely therapeutic, stabilizing the cell membrane, stimulating protein synthesis and accelerating the process of regeneration in damaged liver tissue.
Milk thistle was approved as a therapeutic treatment in 1986 for diseases of the liver. Often prescribed and relied upon for treatment of mushroom poisoning.
Milk thistle's unique properties enable it to protect the liver from damage. In fact, it is so effective that it is widely excepted and used as prescription by the medical establishment.
Increases Bile Production and Breaks Down Fat:
It helps in cases of cirrhosis, hepatitis and works to destroy fatty deposits in liver. The seed is also effective at increasing bile production, helping to guard against gallstones or build up in the gall bladder.
Helps With Inflammation:
Because milk thistle is a demulcent that moistens mucus membranes, it is especially helpful for soothing inflammation in the body and organs. It also reduces liver inflammation, which benefits conditions such as hepatitis.
Clinical research studies suggest these milk thistle benefits:
The benefits of milk thistle, as popularized on Dr. Oz, are becoming more and more popular these days. This super seed is making a resurgence back into the limelight of American culture.
That's because it is the perfect herbal supplement to use for many conditions today that place a heavy burden on the liver.
You don't need to have major liver disease to start using milk thistle seeds. Periodic use can be very helpful for the overall health. Every spring I buy the seeds in bulk quantities and grind them down fresh to use in shakes, smoothies or on salads and soups. The powder has a subtle but pleasant nutty flavor.
Milk thistle seed powder can be used as a digestive aid when taken with meals. It is especially helpful when consuming fatty rich foods that are sometimes common in a mainstream diet. Milk thistle benefits stimulate digestive enzymes and help to break down these rich foods and trans-fats.
Milk thistle helps the liver do its job more effectively, detoxifying the blood. This is valuable for anyone living in the modern world. There are, unfortunately, still many environmental toxins, heavy metals, plastics, radioactive poisons and chemicals that end up finding their way into our bloodstream and body. Milk thistle helps to detoxify their damaging effects and protects this vital organ.
Moreover, when we support the liver other organs are naturally effected in positive ways. When we remove congestion in the liver we also remove congestion in other major organs of the body as a side effect.
Fresh ground milk thistle seed or tincture can be a great herbal supplement to add to your diet. Below we give more details on doses and how to best to use it to get the most out of this powerful super herb. When we are clean on the inside, as a bonus, we also help to keep our skin super healthy and vibrant on the outside.
Whole milk thistle seeds are too hard to eat or use in herbal preparations. So, it is necessary to powder them in a high speed blender or coffee grinder to activate medical properties.
To get the benefits of milk thistle seed, I believe it is important to consume the whole seed powder, as opposed to extracting just the active ingredients, in this case silymarum.
For severe cases of liver disease I recommend taking all forms of milk thistle, using silymarum extract in addition to the freshly powdered seed and a milk thistle tincture.
For cleansing effects it is best to take finely ground milk thistle seed 3 times a day. (About 1t a dose.) Taking herbs whole often has a more harmonious and balancing effect at delivering their superfood properties and making them more bio-available to the body.
Only a certain amount of the silymarin can be absorbed at one time, so it is good to take it in small doses throughout the day.
It is also an excellent super herb seed to supplement if taking large doses of prescription drugs that overload the liver over time. (Always consult your health care adviser first.)
Although silymarin extracts have been proven useful in treating liver disease they have one major drawback. They have been known to interfere with the livers ability to detoxify toxins or pharmaceutical drugs from the body.
This is a good reason to use whole milk thistle seed powder, in addition to the extracts, because it does not interfere with the livers detoxification process.
It is important to always grind your milk thistle seeds fresh and store them in your freezer to preserve their life-force and potency. They tend to go rancid at warmer temperatures because they contain Vit E and 90% fatty acids.
You can also use milk thistle powder infused into herbal tea recipes. Here is a simple herbal tea that can be used to aid digestion. You can also combine ground milk thistle with nutritive herbs, like horsetail or nettle leaf.
This recipe uses peppermint as an herbal spice to help increase delivery of milk thistle's superhealth properties.
This recipe makes one quart of strong herbal tea. Decoct or simmer the dandelion root for 20 minutes and then add it to the remaining ingredients, infusing for 15 minutes. Sometimes it is helpful to use an herbal tea bag and pour the strained dandelion tea over it. Drink your tea throughout the day to get the most benefit.
Milk thistle benefits the body with virtually no side effects from occasional use and is relatively gentle in comparison to other liver herbs or supplements.
Milk thistle seed, as well as silymarin extract, can cause mild diarrhea because it stimulates the release of bile. This effect is most noticeable in people consuming a high fat diet.
For others, it may have a slight effect on the bowels, sometimes lubricating and softening the stools to rid excess from the body.
It is a very safe seed to use for a wide range of people. This includes women who are nursing because it increases milk production.
It may have estrogen-like effect in some people and should be avoided if you have an estrogen hormone-sensitive condition, like endometriosis.